French exchange program provides cultural and educational growth for faculty, students

Foreign languages professor Debbie Mann and Unversité Catholique de l’Ouest professor Yannick le Boulicaut have exchanged teaching roles to add dimension to each of their programs. 20 years ago, the exchange program began between SIUE and the French university. Photo by Theresa San Luis

Faculty and student exchanges between SIUE and the Université Catholique de l’Ouest (UCO) in Angers, France have benefitted both institutions significantly for over twenty years according to Department of Foreign Languages professor of French Debbie Mann.

Faculty exchanges have occurred between Mann and professor Yannick le Boulicaut of (UCO)  in 1994, 2009, 2011 and 2014.  Student exchanges also have taken place between the two universities.

The exchange is an “interesting cultural experience” according to Mann who recalled her first semester teaching translation and interpretation courses abroad.

“It was a lovely thing,” Mann said. “It gave me six months [of  total linguistic and cultural immersion] in France and real professional experience of what it is like to teach in a French university.”

This year, Mann traveled to France and spent spring break and the following week teaching alongside le Boulicaut, who in turn spent two weeks in late April teaching alongside Mann.

Le Boulicaut said he has had interesting discussions with students who had different ideas about being a native French person.

“It was very interesting to confront those ideas,” le Boulicaut said. “It’s really a good way for us to expose students to differences in cultures and languages–that’s the whole point of it. Because you know, sometimes students, especially here, don’t have the opportunity of meeting foreign students and knowing about different cultures other than the TV or the media.”

Le Boulicaut’s teaching of his culture and his language benefits students, according to Mann.

“They really appreciate that they have a native speaker who’s willing to work with them on very specific pronunciation issues…” Mann said. “It’s so much more effective to have Yannick talk about his culture. To hear what a French person says means much more to the students,” Mann said.

Freshman Alexis Crumer said she learned a more realistic view about France and found le Boulicaut’s lectures interesting in Mann’s course, Introduction to Foreign Studies: the French-Speaking World.

“I never knew that they had such cultural divides within France, itself a small country, and just the social struggles that they have as a country,” Crumer said. “During his lectures, he never answered our questions black or white, he also found a way to elaborate or think deeper than you originally asked.”

Junior health education major Nicole Holmes who is minoring in French said she “definitely learned a lot” about the French culture and language in her Advanced French Conversation course.

“It’s good because we’re learning from someone that grew up in France and lived the life of a native,” Holmes said.

Mann said the faculty exchange program has been very useful in student advisement as well. With her experience living and teaching in Angers, she is able to share first-hand information with students about the UCO campus and coursework.

Because of the SIUE-UCO connection, she is able to say, ”Yes, I know exactly where you’re going and I know exactly what the courses are like you’re going to take because I taught some of them,’” Mann said. “It’s a tremendous advantage to have someone who knows the town and who knows the campus.”

This is the case, according to Mann, for le Boulicaut and his students majoring in English at the Université Catholique de l’Ouest as well.

Students interested in participating in the exchange program with the UCO are encouraged to contact professor Mann at for further information on spending a semester in Angers.

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